An interview with Mr. Muij Uddin Mahmud, Advocate, Guwahati High Court

By Munize Ali,,

Mr.Muij Uddin Mahmud, 58 years old advocate based in Guwahati is dealing with hundreds of foreigners cases in Assam particularly in Gauhati High Court. He is associated with various social and voluntary organizations in Assam and has delivered several talks on the social and ethnic problems of Assam. Here he talks about his experience as an advocate dealing with ‘foreigners’ issue. Data provided here are researched by Muij Uddin Mahmud. He is an unsung hero and working with high risk for poor and down trodden people of Assam who are inhumanly harassed in the name of foreigners.

Support TwoCircles

Who is a foreigner as per law?

Section 2(a) of the Foreigners Act 1946 doesn’t define the word ‘foreigner’. It only says that a person who is not a citizen of India is a foreigner. Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 and 6(a) of the Act define who the citizens of India are. Thus it is clear that persons who do not fall within the provisions of aforesaid sections are foreigners.

But it is a matter of resentment that in Assam nearly 3 lakhs citizens have been recorded in the voters list showing them as D-voters and depriving them from all citizenship rights which is totally illegal and unconstitutional. A person would be either citizen or foreigner; there cannot be anyone between the two. Over and above out of these D-voters almost 80% belong to the religious minorities whereas the census reports do not prove that there is abnormal increase of Muslim voters in Assam.

Mr. Muij Uddin Mahmud

What are the documents required for proof of citizenship?

For proving citizenship, normally four documents are required like citizenship certificate, migration certificate, birth certificate and ration card. Now in Assam issuance of citizenship certificate to citizen is totally stopped. Migration certificate cannot be produced by any citizen particularly by Muslims as they never migrated into Assam. Birth certificates were not issued earlier nor it was compulsory earlier. Very recently in the year 1970 though it has been made compulsory yet people are not made much aware about this. As such aged and old persons of Assam are not having birth certificates. Even many younger persons have no birth certificates. Ration cards are there but the authorities have either intentionally or by mistake have recorded their names with many anomalies. As the majority of the minority people are illiterate they could not point out all these at the relevant point of time. Now affidavits are sworn for removing these doubts which are not accepted by majority of authorities or tribunals due to unknown reasons. In view of our experiences, the documents like educational certificates, land concerned documents, service concerned papers, any selling or purchasing documents, GP /Gaonburah etc issued certificates should also be accepted for proving citizenship and notification should be issued to this effect to provide legal status as conclusive proof so that in future nobody can challenge those for recording their names in the upgradated NRC or voter’s list on the basis of those documents. Paper publication or declaration of governor or ministers in this regards have no value at all, if no gazette notification or executive instruction is issued in this regard, which so far has not been done due to unknown reasons in Assam.

So when and how Muslims came to Assam?

Muslims particularly Bengali speaking Muslims came to Kamrup in the year 1206 AD from Bengal under the legendary figure Muhammed Bin Bakhtiar Khilji, the General of Muhammad Ghouri crossing the river Manas. The Ahoms came into Assam in the year 1228 from northern Burma. Thus Muslims are second original inhabitant of Assam next to Bodo kacharis, Chutias and Dimasas. The rest of the population came to Assam like Brahmins, kayasthas and kalita in the same century or thereafter from Kanouj, Orissa etc places. Muhammed bin Bakhtier came up to Hajo in the year 1206 first time and returned after some years. He came to Kamrup for the second time in 1212 AD and crossed Hajo and remained in Kamrup up to 1227. He attacked different smaller kingdoms including the then Ahom King Prethu with the help of his commander Nasuriddin, who later on also became a ruler. He established a small kingdom at and around Hajo. His later commander in chief Izaz Khan went upto Nagaon. Thereafter the descendents of Md Bakhtier which includes Sultan Giasuddin Aulia ruled at Kamrup, the then Assam. The graveyard of Sultan Giasuddin Aulia still exists in Hajo with some of his contemporary rulers and generals. His graveyard is popularly known as Pua Mecca dargah at Hajo. During their kingdom, they assimilated with local people, married here which resulted in growth of Muslim population in Assam. As all these legendary figures originate from Bengal, a substantial number of Bengali Muslims started living in Assam since 1212 AD, who accompanied Muhammed Bin Bakhtier and his decedents. Hussain Shah, the sultan of Bengal conquered Kamata state or western Assam in 1948 and continued his administration till 1519. Mirjumla, the general of Aurangzeb invaded Assam in 1662. Later on, a treaty was signed in between Ahoms and Mughals on January 1, 1663 by Ahom king Jaidhaj Singha and he surrendered vast territory to Mughals like west of the river Barnadi on the North bank of Brahmaputra and west Kalang river on the southern bank. Ahom king Gadhadhar Singhaa later on in 1682 could regained some portions of that land but the then Goalpara remained under the control of Mughals with rest of the Bengal till 1765, when it was brought under the control of East India company.

What was the political participation of Muslims in Assam during and after Independence in 1947?

Politically Muslims are losing their powers after independence. For instance during the time of independence as well as prior to the independence, the chief minister and governor of Assam was sir Sayed Sadullah and Sir Sayed Akbar Hyderi respectively. Over and above, in the year 1937-46 and 1946-52, there were 34 Muslim MLAs in Assam out of 126 MLA constituencies. There after sometime it even reduce to 14. During the year 2006 the number of Muslim MLA in Assam became 24. In addition to these, during 1947-52, there were 4 Muslim MPs from Assam and at present there are three Muslim MPs including one from Rajyasabha. The surmise and malicious propaganda that political powers are going into the hands of ‘Bangladeshi’ is without any basis and a preplanned conspiracy to deprive the Muslims from their legitimate rights in state provided benefits.

What is the rate of growth of Muslims in Assam and what are the impacts in the state for this growth rate?

As per the census report, the percentage of Muslim population in Assam are as follows;

1951 —— 1961 ——1971 ———— 1991 ——— 2001
26.60% —– 25.30% ——- 24.56% ——— 28.42% ——–30.90%

In 1981, no census took place in Assam due to violent agitation in the state. The rate of growth of Muslim population in Assam doesn’t show any abnormal increase of Muslim population in Assam. In 1972, reorganization of north eastern states took place and in the states like Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram had less number of Muslim populations. The rate of increase of Muslim population is not the conclusive proof of changing demography of Assam. These are malafide propaganda of vested interested persons to deprive Muslims from their rights by keeping pressure on them.

What is the socio economic condition of Muslims and their participation in employments?

As per the census report of 2001, the percentage of Muslim in Assam is 30.90% but their employment in higher administration like IAS is below 2%, in IPS below 3%, in Assam secretariat 6.9% but majority of them are in grade III and IV. In teaching, 11% Muslims work as reported by Pratidin, Assamese daily, on March 6, 2007. All these clearly prove the horrible and pathetic pictures of Muslims living in Assam. For such deprivation there has arose a new labour class in the community, increase in petty crimes in this community. In private and semi government sectors, their employment rates are lesser than in government sectors as the employers of such sectors are either biased towards Muslims or do not dare to appoint them due to fear of harassment from the anti Muslim forces. In this context it is also worthy to mention that during the 1961-71, the growth rate of various communities were like these-

Religion ——- India ————- Assam
Hindu ———- 23.69 ————— 37.15
Muslim———— 30.84 ————– 30.99
Christian ———— 2.58 ————– 44.80
Sikhs ———- 32.28 ————– 42.89

This figure also doesn’t prove any abnormal increase of Muslim Population. During 1961-70, Assam’s growth rate was 34.95%, Manipur 37.53%, Nagaland 39.88%, and Tripura 36.28% yet almost every day it is propagated that the growth rate of Assam is much higher than other states. Similarly, the population growth rate of India was 54.39% from 1971-1991. While in Assam its growth rate was 53.26 only. But intentionally always wrong pictures are published and propagated in Assam almost every day creating artificial fear in the mind of common people regarding imaginary presence of so called Bangladeshis. It is more surprising that the state, instead of punishing them, reward then by express or implied manner glorifying their so called patriotism, who are only the tigers of medias and has little contribution to the development of the state in true sense.

What are the contributory factors of Muslim growth rate in Assam?

In 1951, Hindus constituted 66.65% in Assam. In 1961, it is slightly declined to 66.41% but picked upto 72.5%in 1971. Muslims rose from 22.60% of the population of 1951 to 23.29% in 1961 and then to 24.5%. the total increase of Muslims between 1951 and 1971 has only 16 lakhs (rounded off), while the spokesman of the foreigners movement invoke the nightmare of 40 to 50 lakhs of Bengali Muslims over running the province from neighboring Bangladesh. Similarly from 1951 -1971, Hindus rose from 58.40% to 59.70% and 51.54% to 53.92% respectively in Nagoan and Goalpara district , respectively, while growth rate of Muslims declined from 40.53% to 39.40% and 42.25% respectively. All these figures totally negate the large scale migration of Muslims to Assam posing demographic imbalance. A research group of Baroda had reported that 18.5% of Hindus practiced family planning as against 12.7% of Muslims. The illiteracy of average Muslims woman is a contributory factor for growth rate since the immigrant Muslim woman is a contributory factor for growth rate since the immigrant Muslims in Assam are socially backward and illiteracy rate are high among them, family planning is not popular to this section. A letter in Neelachal, an organ of Chauvinists protesting against allegations of an ‘abnormal’ rise in population in Barpeta sub-division, pointed out that it had little to do with infiltration, but a lot with the early marriage in Muslim society. It went to assert that by the time of a Hindu woman got married, the Muslim women, it went to assert that by the time of a Hindu woman got married, the Muslim women of the same age become the mother of 4/5 children. Thus, the talk of Muslim and Bengali invasion of Assam without any substantial basis is adding fuel to the fire. Tremendous decline is death rate from 1921- 1950 by 61% is also responsible for population growth rate in Assam.

What are the anomalies you experienced in the voters list or other similar documents?

From practical point of view, if we see the names of different persons belonging to Muslim community in voter’s list as well as other public documents, it would be evident that the names of the same person has been written by the enumerators/ authorities in different manners. For instance, if we take one instance, from writ appeal No 238/2008, now pending before the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court, it would be evident that in the voters list of 1966, the name of Muslim Mandal has been written as Moselem Ali,s/o Sardar, in the voter list 1970, his name has been written as Muslim, so of Sadar, in the voter list of 1997, his name has been written as Daslem Mondol, son of Sadar, in the voter list of 2005, his name has been recorded as Muslim Mondol, son of Sadar Mondo,l in the NRC of 1951 his name has been recorded as Muslim Uddin son of Sadar Mandal. Similarly his age has also been recorded in a manner which is confusing and contradictory. As this person is an illiterate person and put his thumb impression only, he could not properly realized all these mistakes of the enumerators/ other authority and now has become the victim as Bangladeshi mainly for all these anomalies committed by authorities. There are ample proofs of anomalies of names, if affidavits are even sworn in as per provisions of sections 294/295 and 296 of Cr.P.C, even then those are not accepted due to unknown reasons, which are against the provisions of the sections 56/61/64 and 65 of the Indian evidence act. It is surprising that some Tribunals and course are also not following legislative mandate, the ratio of the cases settled by the judgments of the Honourable Supreme court and Division Bench of the Honourable High Court frustrating and defeating the cause of justice in a perverse manner which is a dangerous aspect of judiciary in Assam and are total violation of international standards of legal jurisprudence. In this manner in a very mechanical and casual manner citizens are declared as Bangladeshis depriving them from basic human rights.

In such cases, what is the settled position of law?

The settled position of law is this that if the veracity or contents of a document is challenged or denied, it must be done at the time of adducing evidence, not thereafter, but it is seen in most of the cases that the documents which are even admitted before the Tribunal remained unchallenged, doubts have been raised regarding the veracity or genuineness of those documents in High Court and long arguments have been made against those documents which is astonishing and totally unacceptable. By this, not only the prosecution is spoiling the valuable time of the High Court, but also it is an attack on settled position of laws. Such arguments should not be allowed to argue at all due to the dignity and sanctity of the Court. Moreover, there are 24 columns in the reference form through which the reference is made to the Foreigner’s Tribunal by the police, but surprisingly in the form, there is no column incorporated, where the referee’s signature would be taken. The whole reference is cryptic and full of malafideness. As such, thousands of cases are sent to tribunals without the knowledge of referees. It is also surprising that in the form, the referee’s detailed particulars are given including his ancestral place, totally by surmise and presumption which are almost false. It is also surprising that from where they have collected those information, as the person who provided information to the police in respect of the referee, his signature is also not taken in the form. All these are done in a malafide, unfair manner bringing immense miseries to the lives of thousands of referees. It is more surprising that for making all such illegalities, the concerned police officer is never made answerable rather praised in disguise by upholding his action.

What is the rural economic condition of Bangladesh and it is reported that people are illegally migrated from there?

Ans: Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country. Its economic condition is not so bad as propagated in the medias of Assam. The World Bank and other international authorities also do not say that its economic condition is extremely bad. Rather from the report of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, it appears that the rural economy of Bangladesh is better than India in many cases. Being a Muslim majority country, it is not believable that they would come to Assam to face humiliation, arrest, detention and jail. This infiltration also do not prove from census reports or votes lists prepared by the census authority or electoral authority of India under the statutory provisions of sections 14-18 of the Representation of People Act 1950. These reports/voters list are prepared by house to house enumeration by government officials who are mainly non-Muslims. As such, there is absolutely no reason to disbelieve those reports and believe so called reports of colourable, jealous and biased organizations, institutions or individuals which are contrary to the statutory census reports or voters lists. It is also notable that almost 99% of the persons against whom foreigner’s cases have been instituted in different tribunals of Assam and also pending in Gauhati High Court, their names have been incorporated in the voters list and NRC. On the other hand, NRC and voters list never show that there is abnormal increase/growths rate of the voters in Assam particularly among Muslim community. Though in many times, it is seen that the person didn’t produce all those documents before the tribunal, but produced them in High court for the first time but it doesn’t mean that those documents are false, as those have been provided to parties by the state authority. The prosecution does not dare to challenge the genuineness of those documents or cannot deny the anomalies of names and ages but submit that why they did not produce the documents before the tribunal. Now it may be mistake on the part of the parties, but for those, the authority of those documents and its consequential benefits cannot be denied to concerned persons. A way must be there in absence of any rules as no rule yet have been framed for conducting foreigner’s cases in Foreigner’s tribunal. Sometimes arguments are made on behalf of prosecution that these persons taking the similarities of names claim those names without any proof or local verification. It is more surprising that many times, Ld tribunal also passing orders against referees on this submission of the prosecution deliberately ignoring even annexed or exhibited public documents which are even accepted without any objection during trials.

What about the Sanowal case?

Much emphasis has been given in the Sonowal’s case, vide 2005 5 SCC, where no conclusive opinion regarding the number of foreigners in Assam have been expressed but the Hon’ble Supreme court, rather on the basis of some reports/ data which have been produced or annexed by the petitioner, state government or central government etc. have expressed their opinion regarding the foreigner’s issue of Assam. The said case was regarding the striking down of the IMDT Act 1983 and its rules, which ultimately has been done. The scope of that judgment or any other judgment cannot be extended to other sectors which has been sought for by the prosecution side again and again in the present foreigner’s cases in Assam as those judgments are not law within the meaning of article 141 of the constitution of India as observed by the supreme court by its judgment reported in 2006 1 SCC 479, Para 36. In addition, to these in Para 71 of the said judgment, it appears that though prayed the supreme court did not express anything as conclusive opinion regarding foreigners and indigenous character of Assam. In this regard it is worthy to mention that the indigenous character of Assam has not changed at all rather within 40 years the number of Assamese speaking population have been increased 350% in between 1931-1971.On the other hand the number of Bengali speaking population have been decreased by 25% during this time, Which is not seen in case of any other language of India.

What message do you want to send to world community regarding the foreigners issue in Assam?

There are very very few foreigners in Assam both among the religious minorities or linguistic minorities like Bengali Hindus. It is true that many Bengali Hindus have come into Assam even after 25th March, 1971 due to political and social unrest in Bangladesh but they are protected under section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 but surprisingly these persons are also harassed in the name of foreigners in Assam which are unheard stories of modern world. We have tremendous instances that in the name of foreigners, the Muslims, Bengali Hindus and in some cases Nepalese are also harassed illegally since last 60 years in Assam. We have also authentic documents and data through which we can prove that these are malicious propagandas let loose by chauvinists and extremist elements to deprive these communities from all sorts of civil, political and constitutional rights and they have also succeeded in this malicious purpose. It is also highly a matter of surprise and resentment that the international communities, international medias like BBC,CNN and other national electronic medias are not focusing to these human tragedies being created in Assam by a section of citizens against another class of citizens for vested interest and thereby creating another Palestine in the North-East India !

(Mr. Muij Uddin Mahmud, Advocate, Guwahati High Court can be contacted at cell number +91-9864130669 and email [email protected]